Fifty years ago, the sinister prison warden paused from beating Luke Jackson and snarled, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” The Captain, as he’s called, is not the main character of Cool Hand Luke, and in fact more of a symbol than a character, but in that moment he embodied all the irony about “communication”: that a word defined as “imparting or exchanging of information or news” is just a euphemism for “defining terms of service,” or “laying down the law.”
In 1967 Cool Hand Luke was written, directed, and presented as an anti-establishment statement, holding out the principle that truth is distinct from social or legal authority, and that individuals do not have to submit to injustice or cruelty. “Communication” sounds better than “dominating,” but it comes to the same thing if the recipient of the message has no freedom to engage in the exchange.
The film has become a classic, not only because of its artistic merit but because Western societies have absorbed and standardized the anti-establishment attitude. Every individual trait is magnified, every variable is standardized, and every preference is authorized. Any standard or regulation will be waived or rescinded once the authority figure recognizes enforcement is too expensive, too embarrassing, or too much effort.
One might suppose that this chaotic state of affairs has improved our level of “communication,” but the opposite is true. Communication, such as we know it now, is fixated on format — that is, how ideas or information are conveyed — rather than on function, or, how well it is apprehended.
That is the inference of a report delivered recently on “trends in communication and technology,” emphasizing the contiguous purpose of those two ideas. The expert source, David George, an engineer and developer of communication devices (walkie talkie, handheld, push to talk), asks, “what will users want next?” and then lists a series of technologies and applications that are shaping communication.
This is important to businesses like metalcasters that collect, record, and relay enormous volumes of details about the work they have done or expect to do. The information is arguably more important to the organizations the individuals managing it, but the collection, recording, and relaying will be subject to a range of new developments, this expert claims.
First, consolidation of software companies will continue, so developers will continue to introduce new programs and apps, to stay relevant. Hardware devices will emerge to control multiple communication outlets at once. Mobile apps will become increasingly sophisticated, which will drive the development of “app-specific” devices.
George noted that the Internet of Things has been driven most recent wireless innovations, and will continue to do so unless another network technology surpasses it — or until it reaches maximum capacity. Manufacturers can easily imagine the implications of this to their enterprises, so WiFi beacons and near-field technologies that communicate with smart phones or other devices are being deployed to target individualized messages. Of course, this will lead to more apps and new hardware to support it, he predicted.
His last prediction is that developers and device manufacturers will be stay relevant and meet user requirements only by to aligning to achieve a joint technologies. “The trend toward synergistic partnerships has expanded rapidly in recent years and, as new software and technologies arise, sharing the load will be an even greater necessity,” he offered.
Do we need a forecaster to reveal that we are being guided by technology? That responding to alerts and entering responses is the sum of most of our communication? Our atomized culture unites only around commerce, and cooperates only around those initiatives that help us gain more customers, more subscribers, or more followers. And yet, the individuals remain the variables in any communication network. If they ever realize their role in the process, communication may actually exceed the euphemistic standard we assume today.